Get to the Purnt, Edith…

I’ve had to sit through some godawful talks lately.

Some included the tool of the evil one himself, powerpoint. Didact had some good stuff on powerpoint. Tried to find it on his site, but it was probably on his telegram channel and quite frankly, I’m too lazy to search. BTW join that channel if you can. He has the best info on the war we shouldn’t be doing.

I teach technical training for a living. Actually, I now mostly do it in eLearning, but the ability to speak in public is the same, cultivated for me by years of sales engineering and training.

So I have some tips – long before we get to powerpoint.

First, know what you are talking about. There’s no substitute for knowing something deeply and having passion for it. You do that and the words flow. Nearly all the times I was nervous talking in public was because I wasn’t 100% where I needed to be. I got there though. So much so that I’ve given presentations to a room of PHDs about the products I supported and held my own. Best time ever was after one such talk, having a three hour lunch with the tall foreheads of a testing lab, gabbing about 3D TV.

Why can’t we have Star Wars holographic TV? How would we do it?

Solved a lot of problems that day. No one seemed to care though, we still don’t have 3d TV.

Second, understand that there’s only so much a human can absorb at one setting. TMI is a thing. One of the people that was instumental in my presentation style is Guy Kawasaki. I read one of his books and it was like everything I hated in a presentation laid bare with advice on how to fix it. More on that in a bit. BTW – how cool would it be to have the last name ‘Kawasaki?”.

I was at a convention when I was with Lucent with a junior sales engineer. We went to lunch where I counselled him how to act at these things. “Look dude, you have a short time when they come to the booth. Have four points, tops, and ask questions.” He had a monster powerpoint prepared. I told him to shitcan it. Use thje one I crafted that would roll in a loop with 6 slides. Don’t use it for anything other than eye candy.

Don’t hit the audience with a ton of information. They tune out surprisingly fast. Kawasaki says ten. I sez four points, tops. Do your bit ask questions.

Third? Ask questions – keep them engaged. Any questions? No? Here’s what you should have asked!

Then you hit a point to bring one of those four concepts home.

Now about that tool of the devil’s spawn powerpoint…

Don’t use it.

Only use it to accentuate what you are saying. Good for technical drawings and data, graphs. Do not….DO NOT have a slide of text and read it. DO NOT USE IT AS A CRUTCH! FFS have something to say and say it!

If you must use it, follow Guy Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 rule.


  • 10 slides
  • 20 minutes
  • 30 point font

I used to endure dozens of slides the Lucent sales dudes would put out. They were soul sucking. I sat for over two hours where the sales dudes hit that poor customer with 60-70 slides of vaporware. When we left, not one engineer came with us for a free lunch. Not. One. I got in the elevator last, looked up at the ceiling and exhaled just as little short dork product manager asked me how I thought they did. I turned on him, bent down and said:

“You killed them, dude. An hour ago. You know how I know? Ever know an engineer to pass on a free lunch? Ever? Hell, they’ll go even if they hate you. Are they coming? No. They aren’t. You are dead as dead can be. Congratulations.”

Too much candor, I got laid off a few months later.

I’m the big boss, grand kahuna of a fraternal charity. We invite guests to speak at dinner before our meetings. Some of them really stretch it. You have ten minutes and can’t ask for money. Those are the rules. Last week I knew I was screwed when they asked how to light up the powerpoint they wanted to use. That woman spoke for no shit 20-25 minutes, reading a powerpoint the the whole time, oblivious to me gently trying to have her wind up her rap.

She lost nearly every one in the room.

Every. Damn. One.

Even though we were predisposed to help her. \

There’s a lesson there.

If you are invited to speak:

  • Be brief
  • Be concise
  • Have your four main points
  • Do not use powerpoint. If you do, it must compliment what you say, not be what you say. Do not read it. The room has already read it before you open your mouth.
  • Follow this: Who I am, what I’m here about, why you should care, how to help (call to action)- there’s your four points right there.
  • Leave room for questions, leave room for them to seek you out

You won’t win everyone. Win the ones you can. Don’t wear them out.

It’s really that simple.